GAA Football

Provincial championships link to All-Ireland is strengthened after Special Congress - McAvoy

GAA President Larry McCarthy and Ulster GAA chief executive Brian McAvoy.
Picture by Mal McCann

"I THINK there is a momentum for change, I think it's inevitable…" Not the words of GPA CEO Tom Parsons, nor even GAA President, but Ulster GAA chief Brian McAvoy.

When even arguably the strongest opponent of Proposal B for alterations to the inter-county football championships accepts that the future will look different then it would appear to be mostly a matter of time.

Yet after the split season, this was the split Special Congress, split almost right in half, with 85 delegates favouring Motion 19, 83 against the idea of bringing in what would effectively be a League Championship.

Most of the opposition aired came from Ulster, apart from Galway and Mayo, but that still doesn't account for the high number of total votes against a Central Council-backed motion.

McAvoy was the only Down person present who spoke publicly at Croke Park on Saturday, even though the Mourne County had apparently mandated its delegates to back Proposal B.

Voices from all the other eight Ulster counties were heard against it, but provincial head McAvoy rejected any clichéd 'Ulster says no' narrative, pointing out: "Ulster weren't the only province against this. All four provincial councils came out against this…

"This wasn't an Ulster versus the Association thing, far from it. Ulster had less votes than the overseas. We had only 22 votes. There were 60 votes from somewhere else against."

While he acknowledged the desire for change, McAvoy also felt his own viewpoint had been strengthened by Saturday's debate and vote: "I think there's a clear momentum now that there has to be still a link between the provincial championships and the All-Ireland series…

"There has to be a route to the All-Ireland series, that is a key fundamental. If you don't have that route to the All-Ireland series they [provincial championships] are totally demeaned and devalued…

"It possibly means re-structuring within the provincial system, but also probably the league system, and maybe have a route from both, provinces and leagues, into a knockout All-Ireland series. I think we can be creative."

The challenge now is to come up with such a solution.

"No one even in support of Proposal B said it was perfect," said McAvoy. "They all identified flaws. If you're going to change, you have to have a better alternative…

"We've been saying all along that there is a need for change – but it has to be change for the better, not change for the worse. There was no consensus for this motion. It was divisive. And we've seen with the result, 50-50. You have to have consensus for change."

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GAA Football